Editorial do WSJ
Chinese state media announced late Wednesday that the Beijing police department released artist Ai Weiwei on bail "because of his good attitude in confessing his crimes as well as a chronic disease he suffers from." It will be heartening to see Mr. Ai safe at home, but the suggestion that the bail was granted as some kind of a favor adds insult to the injury of his persecution. Mr. Ai was arrested on April 3 and held in violation of China's own laws, which limit detention without charge to 37 days.
Mr. Ai is known for being relentlessly outspoken, which is what led to his disappearance, and after a global campaign for his release the media will want to hear his story. But he will be under intense pressure not to speak out and may still be held under an extralegal form of house arrest.
This form of detention is the Communist Party's latest tactic for dealing with property rights campaigners, human rights lawyers and other independent thinkers. Since the threat of prison is no longer enough to keep them quiet, and prison itself creates martyrs like Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, the police have created a purgatory that hides political prisoners in plain sight.
As well as being cut off from human contact, dissidents and their families are harassed and prevented from buying food and other necessities. Last week, a letter from blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng reached the outside world detailing how he and his wife were savagely beaten in their home in February by the local authorities, apparently in retaliation for smuggling out a video that exposed the conditions of their confinement.
Turning Beijing's apartment buildings into plain-clothes prisons for the intellectual elite may be ingenious, but perhaps human rights campaigners could use them to expose the regime's repression. Foreign tourists want to learn about all sides of China, so they should be able to find maps to the dissidents' homes online, like the star tours in Beverly Hills. On their last day in China, they could try to visit a celebrity who would be only too happy to see them, if it weren't for the regime's thugs lurking outside the door.